February 5, 2017

POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAY: Using the “Mythology” of the Bible as SF Plots

Using the panel discussions of the most recent World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City in August 2016 (to which I was invited and had a friend pay my membership! [Thanks, Paul!] but was unable to go (until I retire from education)), I will jump off, jump on, rail against, and shamelessly agree with the BRIEF DESCRIPTION given in the pdf copy of the Program Guide. This is event #2315. The link is provided below…

Mythology as the Basis for Speculative Fiction Convention Center 2503A • Panel Does an understanding of mythology make better speculative fiction, and what is its current role within SF writing?

Katie Daniels – author of several supervillan novellas
Mr. Jeffrey Cook – fantasy writer and well-known indie advocate
David Farnell – not certain, but might be the author of DELTA GREEN, a novel based on a popular role-playing game
Sheila Finch(M) – wrote the book, MYTHS, METAPHORS, AND SCIENCE FICTION
Ada Palmer – author of the acclaimed novel, TOO LIKE THE LIGHTNING

Great panel, most likely!

So now I’ll throw my two cents in…and maybe try to go to WorldCon 2018 in San Jose…

At any rate, let’s say for the sake of argument (avoiding one) that the general SF community would consider the Bible mythology. Of course there are Christians who are SF writers, most notably Gene Wolfe, but the majority of them are not.

I’ve been considering the use of the parables of Jesus as well as several other Christian stories as a basis for my stories. I’m working on a novel right now called MARTIAN HOLIDAY (if you’d like to read the series as it stands in first draft, go here: http://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/search/label/SCIENCE%20FICTION%20-%20Martian%20Holiday) in which I’m merging the stories of Stephen the Martyr, Esther the Queen, Paul the Apostle, and the writings of Daniel…on a Mars controlled by a United Faith in Humanity where all religions were deemed divisive and outlawed. Oh…and aliens.

I’ve got other ideas as well. Certainly Joseph’s story could be “futurified”. Other possibilities include David & Goliath (which actually shows up without attribution in a number of stories!); Noah and the Ark; Adam & Eve stories somehow get written all time and are on a number of “Don’t you dare send us one of these kinds of stories!” lists; Jonah and the Whale (I tried this once and never sold the story. I’ve eventually be dissecting it in my Writing Advice entries); Daniel in the Lion’s den; Joseph and his Brothers; The Good Samaritan (often appears in stories as a character either flaw or strength…a character of my favorite author has this characteristic. His name is Jason Morgan and if he DIDN’T have it, the series would utterly collapse!); the Prodigal Son; Abraham and Isaac; Kind David’s Confession; David and Nathaniel; Sampson & Delilah; Parable of the Sower (this one has an echo in the American tall tale of Johnny Appleseed); the entire book of Job (though Robert A Heinlein wrote JOB: A COMEDY OF JUSTICE already…); Lazarus; Elijah’s ascension to Heaven; plus the Sermon on the Mount…there are literally hundreds of stories there waiting to be told.

A couple of things, though…

How do you turn these into SF stories and how do you do it consistently?

Ah, there’s the rub. Consistency. Trevor Quachri at ANALOG bounced my most recent story. I like it, but he didn’t. So now what? I sent it to CC Finlay, too and while he said something nice about it, he didn’t take it, either. But was it based on the Bible? Does my writing HAVE TO be based on the Bible? Oswald Chambers had something interesting to say about that in his devotional book, MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST: “We are nowhere commissioned to preach salvation or sanctification; we are commissioned to preach Jesus Christ.” (February 1) This is based on John 12:32, where Jesus says, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.” This happened immediately after his baptism and the descent of the Holy Spirit on him in the form of a dove.

Do my stories draw people to Christ? Should they?

I am currently reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s GREEN MARS. It won the Hugo and Locus Awards, as well as being nominated for the BSFA and Nebula. It’s fascinating and deserves the accolades, but I also find it to be scrappy, full of his opinions on everything from religion to government. With a BA, MA, and a PhD in English. Clearly he’s well-read, but as far as intense study of some scientific field, he hasn’t got anything formal to speak of. Nothing in politics, either. Or psychology, business, or any other field of endeavor that might qualify him to make the sweeping observations he does in his novels.

Yet he won the awards and his work is influential, garnering awards and accolades and it seems as if he’s a sort of 21st Century Frank Herbert, who also had little or no formal training in the sciences, economics, psychology, and never had any kind of degree. He, too, left a deep mark on the SF community.

So – if I want to leave a mark for Christ with my writing, and I am no theologian (like my literary hero, CS Lewis), then I suppose I should just go ahead and do it, eh?

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